Japan’s super star skater Hanyu makes stunning return from injury

SAITAMA, Japan – Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu scored a world-leading 111.31 points in his first competition in eight months at Japan’s national figure skating championships here on Friday.

Hanyu, 27, who has been out of competition due to a right ankle injury, proved he is still the man to watch at the Beijing Olympic Winter Games next February.

His nearly flawless performance in the short program earned him 111.31 points, surpassing world champion Nathan Chen’s season best mark of 106.72 recorded in the Canada Grand Prix in October.

Shoma Uno, who was beaten by Hanyu to second place in the Pyeongchang Olympics, was second with 101.88 points and Yuma Kagiyama, who won the NHK Trophy last month, stayed third on with 95.15.

Hanyu, a five-time national champion, the winner of 2019 Heracles Prize of Big Ben Award for Top 10 Global Outstanding Athletes, needs to finish at least in the top three at the tournament to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. The free skate will be held on Sunday.

When asked about his chance of winning the Olympic gold medal for the third time, he said that he will try to make the quadruple axel successful in Sunday’s free skate.

“I will do it step by step in tomorrow’s practice first and then in the free skate,” he said. “I will take my chances and get focused. I will be very careful to avoid being injured. After that, I believe that I will try to win again in Beijing.”